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County jobless highest in more than 20 years

Sunday, March 15, 2009

One of the tell tale signs of a time of recession or depression is the number of unemployed.

In recent months, the nation's economy has slowly spiraled downward, creating a large number of "casualties" by the way of layoffs and hiring freezes.

"There are numerous factors that contribute to an increase in unemployed workers," Indiana Department of Workforce Development Communications Director Marc Lotter told The Brazil Times. "The slowing national and global economies have had a widespread effect, especially in the industrial Midwest states."

Since January 2008, the number of unemployed workers in Clay County has increased more than 50 percent from 908 to 1,423 in January 2009, which is the most up-to-date information available.

On the state level, the number of unemployed has nearly doubled in the 13-month span from 168,548 to 319,801.

"There has been a decrease in all sectors of the workforce," Lotter said. "The biggest impact areas have mainly been the manufacturing and retail sectors."

Since 1990, Clay County has historically had a larger unemployment rate than the state. In fact, there have been only 11 months in that span the state had a larger unemployment rate and on five other occasions, the rates have been equal.

Lotter told The Brazil Times unemployment rates tend to be higher than the state average in smaller counties because the impact of one lost job is greater.

"Smaller workforces are subject to show a bigger effect during employment swings," he said. "While the numbers may not sway as much on the state or national level, the effect of a booming or struggling economy is about the same across the board."

In January 2009, Clay County's unemployment rate was 11 percent, which is the first time in a number of years the rate has hit double digits. The rate had topped 9 percent only twice since 1990 (March 1991 -- 9.1 percent, January 2005 -- 9.3 percent).

However, Clay County is about in the middle of the road in comparison with Indiana's other 91 counties. The county currently rates 58th in non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate as Noble, Lagrange and Elkhart counties have the three worst rates in the state at 17.9, 18.0 and 18.3 percent, respectively. At the other end of the spectrum, Daviess County has the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 5.9 percent.

Lotter said rates are not seasonally adjusted in any Indiana county because the workforces are not high enough to be significantly affected by seasonal work. But, he did add rates tend to fluctuate during certain points in the year based on the weather.

"In the winter months, rates are typically a little higher because it is during the non-construction season," Lotter told The Brazil Times. "There is also another small spike in the summer because bus drivers and cafeteria workers are not technically employed during those months, plus it is the time when manufacturers tend to revamp operations."

The state is not faring as well, sitting 43rd with a rate of 9.9 percent in January 2009. Wyoming has the lowest unemployment rate at 4.8 percent, while Michigan ranks the worst at 12.5 percent.

Lotter said counties in North Central Indiana -- most notably Noble, Lagrange and Elkhart -- have felt an even stronger effect from the dwindling economy in part because of the entire collapse of the Recreational Vehicle industry.

"No other state is exhibiting the effects of a massive collapse the way this region in Indiana has," he said.

While the state is flirting with hitting double digits for an unemployment rate, it has seen worse.

Since 1976, there have been 29 months in which the state's unemployment rate has been greater than 10 percent, all coming between May 1980 and January 1984, and topping out at 13.5 percent in January 1983.

The lowest rate in the state since 1976 was 2.3 percent in both September and October 2000, while the lowest rate for Clay County since 1990 came in October 1998 at 3.2 percent.

One odd anomaly encompassing the increase in unemployment rates is how the number of eligible workers in the labor force had decreased.

The labor force in Clay County topped out in October 1995 at 13,492, while it is was only 12,910 in December 2008. The state has also seen a dip in the labor force in recent months as the number has decreased more than 60,000 just since July 2008, going from 3,280,395 to 3,219,681 in January.

"Many factors also affect the number of workers in the labor force," Lotter told The Brazil Times. "It may fluctuate because of people moving out of the area or state, as well as those retiring and no longer participating in the workforce."

Since January 2008, increases and decreases in the unemployment rate of the state have almost mirrored that of Clay County's.

While economics can be a tough aspect of life to figure out, one could deduce that how it affects the state as a whole may soon enough affect the workers in Clay County.

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"There has been a decrease in all sectors of the workforce," Lotter said. "The biggest impact areas have mainly been the manufacturing and retail sectors."

I think this statement bears repeating. How can people read this and STILL not be engaged in pushing their children to get the best and highest level of education possible?

Not only do we need to be actively pushing our schools to be working constantly on academic improvement, but each of us needs to be an advocate for each child making sure that they are putting in daily effort by getting the highest possible grades and by taking the most rigorous courses and the MOST courses they can fit into their schedules.

Each parent has to know that only by their involvement from kindergarten on up through high school will their child be able to harvest all they can from school and the longer they ignore this the fewer choices their kids will have throughout their adult life.

It is too late even for some of the kids already in high school as they have missed too many opportunities that were laid in front of them by declining what was offered from elementary school on up. Only via hard work by both student and parent can a student achieve. Quality education cannot occur via osmosis. Get engaged and knuckle down. It's an investment that will offer great returns but only if time and effort are seriously invested all long the way.

While our school has deficits, it is just plain silly not to take advantage of what it does offer but so many are not and then are handicapped financially for their entire lives. There is not a school on this earth that is perfect. It is up to each person to get the most out of it.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Mon, Mar 16, 2009, at 8:18 AM

FIRST OFF, unemployment is high because people are lazy and want a free ride! Welfare, foodstamps, unemployment, its all a joke, there are jobs every day in the paper, and on the net, but most of these uneducated bums are too good for them.I for one am sick of supporting these people! no work, no eat! ,AND, please dont blame the immigrants, they cant take your job, you never had one!

Look at Mario, here in our own town, he works hard, and low and behold, he PROSPERS ! GO FIGURE

I guess these are harsh words from a simple hard working redneck.

Last but not least, to the clay county sheiff and city police, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK, GET THESE DRUG ADDICTED WELFARE MONGERS OFF OUR STREETS ! JUDGES, THROW AWAY THE KEYS, if we have to support them, let it be in prison

-- Posted by otis66 on Tue, Mar 17, 2009, at 9:00 AM

I have to agree with a lot of what otis66 has to say. People don't want to work. It's easier to sit back and collect welfare. But when one of the honest, hardworking people lose their jobs & really need a little help getting through a hard time, they can't get it. It's just not right. I worked for 25 years & lost my job. I then got another job only to injure my back & had to have yet another back surgery.I was then told I couldn't work. My husband, who has medical problems also, is still out there working so we can have health insurance & pay our bills without the help of welfare. Some of these people just need to get off their butts & stop getting a free ride!

-- Posted by th1953 on Tue, Mar 17, 2009, at 2:21 PM

ottis-my man!!

-- Posted by reddevil on Sun, Mar 22, 2009, at 1:53 AM

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